‘300: Rise of An Empire’ is a good example of cinematic exploitation. With TV shows such as ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Spartacus’ returning the ‘sword and sandal’ genre back in vogue, it’s understandable Hollywood would cash in. A sequel to 2007’s ‘300’, it further embellishes the savagery and bloody conquests in which its protagonists indulge. It ensures viewing the looming battles are never dull with the muscled and well-toned heroes and villains seizing the chance for enduring glory.
Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) is a skilled Greek general in 480 BC. Willing to fight to the death for his country a deadly conflict arises. When evil Queen Artemisia (Eva Green) and King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) lead the Persian invasion of Greece, Themistocles readies himself for war. Facing an epic battle, he ensures his troops are ready to honour their country with a mighty fury their enemies have never seen.
‘300: Rise of An Empire’ isn’t the type of movie seen for its acting. It’s a purely visual experience with the aim in ensuring viewers are put in the heart of battle spectacularly realised. Every bruising, grisly fight is shown successfully conveying the adrenaline-charged zeal in the character’s quest for dominance. Thankfully there’s a story to be found amongst the fights ensuring it doesn’t become a parade of endless battle sequences. Historical fact is mixed well with the fiction maintaining interest until the next display of savagery.
Amongst the scenes of carnage, the performers are given a chance to act. Stapleton makes for a stoic hero refusing to surrender. He manages to make his role better than expected with Green gleefully chewing the scenery with her wicked maven. The rest of the cast are generally nondescript although some manage to overcome the weight of their biceps and deliver strong back-up. The other star is the amazing CGI highlighting the agony and the ecstasy of the world in which the characters live.
A solid action/historical epic ‘300: Rise of An Empire’ delivers on its potential. It serves its genre well ensuring it will survive decades after its virtuous heroes have faded from view.
Rating out of 10: 7
The success of the ‘Fast and the Furious’ franchise spawned a host of imitators. Using the template of fast cars, hot chicks and stoic men, many have attempted to grab a slice of the profitable pie. ‘Need for Speed’ does its best to take a share. Full of the elements needed to appeal to the male-skewering audience, it’s a full throttle ride devoted rev-heads should enjoy.
Framed for a crime he didn’t commit, street racer Tobey (Aaron Paul) determines to get even. Released from prison he has powerful car entrepreneur Dino (Dominic Cooper) in his sights. Aided by mysterious car dealer Julia (Imogen Poots), Tobey’s mission becomes more perilous. With danger at every turn his vengeful odyssey knows no limits as he speeds towards a fateful climax.
‘Need for Speed’ can best be described as a ‘thought-free’ movie. Requiring little use of brain cells, it’s an outrageous romp. It has a bit of romance, danger and lots of car chases. Unfortunately there are too many thrills and spills leading one to suspect they were used for padding. What plot there is focuses on the basic good vs. evil concept as Tobey and Dino battle it out on the streets. These scenes are very well realised and naturally provide the most interest in a generally forgettable film.
Paul equips himself well as the raspy-voiced hero with Cooper having the most fun as the hiss-able villain. Director Scott Waugh shows some style during the car sequences with plenty of bangs for anyone’s bucks. He keeps the mood light as ‘Need for Speed’ doesn’t take things too seriously. His comic-book story-telling approach works given this is based on a popular console game. It succeeds in becoming much better than most game-to-screen adaptations even if it goes on far longer than it should.
‘Need for Speed’ is total fluff still managing to entertain. Its budget is well spent despite its predictability as it clocks more mileage along cinema’s long highway.
Rating out of 10: 6